I need to write something that’s, like, totally been on my heart lately.
I know the term “on my heart” probably isn’t a term you were expecting to see when you opened a photography blog full of flowers and crazy light and happy people and ridiculously enthusiastic words but, honestly, I couldn’t think of any other phrase to use. This topic has been on my heart for years!
And, basically, it boils down to this: Don’t let yourself be afraid.
I remember what it’s like to be a new photographer.
I remember cracking open books by Jose Villa and Elizabeth Messina and thinking, “How do they do that?!” (actually, I still think that whenever I look at work shot by Jose Villa and Elizabeth Messina and so many other photographers, too!). I remember what it’s like to feel totally overwhelmed about aperture choice and shutter speed and I remember feeling so discouraged (even fake!) when I realized that Photoshop wasn’t for me. If it worked for everyone else, why couldn’t I make it work for me?
And after a while? When I’d figured out the basics but everything else was wide open and waiting for me? I remember feeling afraid of new ideas and thoughts and projects. I remember wanting to use certain locations and certain light and certain lenses and certain poses and even specific outfits and, instead of embracing those ideas and quirks that made me different, I let myself be afraid of the outcome and played it safe instead. Afraid of what I really wanted to shoot, I shot what I thought other people expected me to shoot and, over time, it made me feel a little hollow.
Y’all. Your work should never make you feel hollow. It should make you feel the opposite.
This time period was a long time ago – a year or two before I went full time – and, to get over it, I embraced tilt-shift work and prime lenses and color and grain and it was so scary. I used to think that, to be a good photographer, my images needed to be gritty and moody and dark and, while I love those things, they’re not me. I fell in love with photography for so many reasons but, boiled down to one single reason, I fell in love with photography because it made me happy. Why, then, was it so hard for me to embrace happy photographs? Why was I afraid that happy photographs would be vapid or cheesy or, worst of all, not as important as dark and edgy photographs? And, most of all, why did it even matter? What was I so afraid of anyway? Was I afraid because I was worried about outside opinions or was I afraid because I was afraid of failing? Don’t all artists fail sometimes anyway?
Because YES! They do. ALL artists fail at some point or another. All artists go through cycles with their work and, if I could give it an educated guess, I’d say that most artists see their work as a spectrum and that, while one thing may work for awhile, it won’t always work forever and, sometimes, it just doesn’t work at all even if we really, really want it to. Do not be afraid to evolve and do not be afraid to be yourself and to create the art that you want to create. Your art is YOUR art and YOUR heart and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s – it should whole heartedly and unabashedly be you.
And y’all? I’m not just blowing steam. As a photographer, I have failed too many times to count.
I have failed at getting images in focus. I have failed at genuine emotion. I have failed at emails and processing and marketing and I’ve put my foot in my mouth at sessions too many times to count. I have failed so many times over in so many different ways. Once, in 2012, I knocked a bride’s bouquet over when it was sitting on a coffee table (with my butt!) before the wedding. In 2013, I brought a ten month old Henry to a wedding consultation and it became my first wedding consultation that never got back to me afterward. In 2014, I lined my OCF up wrong during a sparkler exit. In 2015, I snapped at my husband during a cake cutting and then realized that everyone heard me (and I never ever ever snap at my husband!). It was awful! And in 2016? I called a bride the wrong name on her entire wedding day. I fail all of the time and I will fail again in 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and 2020 and 2021 and 2022 and so on and so forth! And honestly? I am so grateful for those failures.
Do not be afraid of failing. Don’t be afraid of shooting what you want to shoot. You will fail as a photographer. You will fail again and again and, sometimes, it’ll be really difficult, other times it will be a surprise and, most of the time, it’ll be exactly what you needed to let yourself – and your work! – evolve. So! From me to you: Get out there and tackle any project that you want to tackle instead of “waiting for the right time”. Get out there and shoot until your heart (and memory cards!) are full and your feet are exhausted and, if you fail, dust yourself off and do it all over again. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid to be yourself. You can’t have one without the other and, together, they make the most beautiful art and the most beautiful of souls. You’ve got this! Get out there, y’all!